Tuesday, Sep 08, 2015

Hi there! I’m Al Stanton-Hagan, a former research assistant for the LGBTQ Oral Histories Digital Collaboratory and student at U of T’s iSchool. Starting in September I’ll be replacing Rebecka Sheffield as the new Digital Archivist for the Collaboratory. This summer I attended the Islandora Conference at the University of Prince Edward Island, jumping into my new role head first to learn about one of the tools we’re using to store and provide access to the Collaboratory’s digitized materials.


Islandora is an open-source digital content management system that allows organizations to store, manage, and provide access to digital assets. To achieve this, its software stack combines the content repository Fedora with a Drupal-coded user interface and an Apache Solr search. Islandora has created a robust community of administrators and developers who share their findings about the fantastic opportunities--and frustrations--of working with open-source content-management software. Several times a year, members of this community meet in person at Islandora camps and conferences for workshops, demonstrations, and resource sharing. I joined librarians, archivists, developers, and digital humanities experts to learn about what people are doing with Islandora, and what sorts of opportunities and challenges I might encounter using it at the CLGA.


Photo caption: red sand, blue skies, and content management software


Open-source software is a valuable alternative to expensive proprietary content-repository software such as ContentDM, which is easy to use out of the box, but provides limited opportunities for customization. Islandora allows for all kinds of unique functionality that is useful to the goals of the Collaboratory. It could be a great tool for storing digitized oral histories by offering customized input forms a

nd can be configured to provide both preservation and access for large audio files. The capability to link the repository to content aggregators such as Google Scholar and WorldCat is a great way to increase access to Collaboratory content. At the conference, I saw tons of gorgeous and fabulously functional websites, my favourite being Bowing Down Home, a beautifully presented ethnography of fiddling in Prince Edward Island featuring performances and oral histories


The possibilities that Islandora offers are exciting and promising. At the same time, customizing a site too much can create the need for expensive maintenance by developers that makes it difficult to create and run a digital repository that suits our needs without encountering prohibitive financial or labour costs.


We’re still in the early days of figuring out how Islandora (or other preservation and exhibit softwares) can work for the Collaboratory, but it is an exciting time to join a community of people creating innovative ways to store and access digital content.


M. Mohamed
Thursday, Jul 16, 2015

 Above: LGBTQ Collaboratory Poster by Rebecka Sheffield

Congratulations to Collaboratory member (and new Executive Director of the CLGA!) Rebecka Sheffield, for her award-winning poster on the LGBTQ Collaboratory. Rebecka’s poster was presented at the 2015 Archival Education Research Institute (AERI). Held at the University of Maryland, AERI brought together Archival Studies scholars from all around the world. Rebecka’s poster-an at once gorgeous and concise summary of the Collaboratory’s work-won the audience award, beating out a total of 26 other research posters presented at AERI. The poster also sparked stimulating discussions around archival work. The Collaboratory’s multi-institutional span for instance (across U of T, York, University of Victoria, SFU, College of the Holy Cross, and College of the Arts London), became a touching point for conversations surrounding the logistics of collaborative work. “This collaborative approach is increasingly necessary and in fact, essential for archivists who have grand challenges that require multi perspectival analysis and deep expertise in areas such as digitization, metadata creation, community outreach and partnership stewardship,” says Rebecka.

  Another important conversation sparked by the Collaboratory, and Sheffield’s poster, was the issue of metadata and classification nomenclature. Archivists and researches certainly take care to use the classification preferences of interviewees, based on how interviewees politically/personally identified as (both within and beyond the identity markers available in the LGBTQ acronym) at the time of their respective interviews. At the same time, sexual and gender identities may change over time- an interviewee’s understanding of their self may not be the same as it was during an interview that happened decades ago. How are archivists and researchers to account for changes in something as personal as identity, and the subsequent impact on metadata and classification nomenclature? This particular conversation (and others) sparked by Rebecka’s award-winning poster, certainly points to the interesting, new and important work done at the Collaboratory! For more updates on the Collaboratory, be sure to follow @lgbtqhistory on Twitter. 


M. Mohamed
Monday, Jun 29, 2015

We're glad to announce that the Collaboratory was included as a featured oral history project for the Oral History Review's Pride Month.  Collaboratory director Elspeth Brown recently interviewed with the Oral History Review, where she was invited to discuss the Collaboratory’s roots in community-driven oral history projects. Touching on community-based archives like Lesbians Making History, and the Foolscap Oral History Project (a collection of interviews from the 80's, on gay men living in Toronto), Elspeth discusses the Collaboratory’s aims to make analog, print and cassette-based oral archives available to the larger public through digitization. “Trans history is another area where the primary sources available for people to write trans histories is pretty thin historically,” states Elspeth, as she goes on to highlight how Collaboratory efforts like the Trans Pathfinder (a digital guide on the CLGA’s trans materials) will make trans-related primary sources more accessible for historians and community members alike. Be sure to check out the fascinating interview in full, at the Oral History Review's blog:

Follow the Collaboratory on twitter @lgbtqhistory

M. Mohamed
Thursday, Jun 25, 2015

As we gear up for the  launch of the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory (soon!) we’ll be posting short previews of what you can expect from the Collaboratory’s digitized archive. This past month saw the incredibly successful launch of the Lesbians Making History Collection- keeping with the strong interested surrounding the Lesbians Making History Collection, our first “sneak preview” is a brief clip from Pat Murphy’s 1986 interview with Lesbians Making History. Pat discusses how lesbians of Toronto identified each other in the 60’s/70’s, in addition to the history of Toronto’s lesbian bar scene. A fascinating clip from an interview that we’re more than glad to share with you all:

Stay tuned for the Collaboratory launch to access the complete interview! Be sure to follow the Collaboratory on twitter: @lgbtqhistory

M. Mohamed
Wednesday, Jun 10, 2015

                                                                      From left to right: Eve Zaremba, Amy Gottleib, Maureen Fitzgerald, and Elspeth Brown                                                                                                                                                                    

     This past Sunday saw the launch of Lesbians Making History, at the CLGA. A packed house gathered to celebrate the launch of the Lesbians Making History oral history collection. Displayed prominently at the front of the packed event space, was the original banner used by Lesbians Making History throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Sprawled across the giant banner in giant black letters, was the phrase “We’re Interested in Older Women”- a succinct, on-point summary of the group’s goals. Certainly “interested in older women,” Lesbians Making Histories formed in the 1980’s as a network of community historians and activists interested in conducting interviews on women who identified as lesbian from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. The oral history project was especially important because of its focus on documenting the survival of lesbian communities before the 60’s advent of second wave feminism. The original Lesbians Making History collection was digitized under a partnership with the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, and will soon be made available to the public through the Collaboratory.

            Speakers at the launch included the original members of Lesbians Making History: Maureen Fitzgerald, Amy Gottleib, and Didi Khayatt, who all shared touching anecdotes from throughout the history of Lesbians Making History. Other speakers included the lively Eve Zaremba (the last living interviewee from the original group of women interviewed for the project), and Elspeth Brown from the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory.  We have their efforts to thank for the existence, digitization and continued preservation of the Lesbians Making History collection.

Be sure to follow the Collaboratory on twitter: @lgbtqhistory

Jade Pichette
Friday, May 22, 2015

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Rebecka Sheffield, BA, MISt, Ph.D. (ABD) will assume the role of Executive Director/Archives Manager.

Rebecka is known to most of us through her active and outstanding volunteer work at CLGA for the past 8 years, including chairing the Community Engagement Committee, the Digital Collections Working Group and as Digital Archivist, LGBTQ+ Oral History Digital Collaboratory. During this period, Rebecka has also been doing groundbreaking research on LGBTQ+ archives in Canada and the USA, as part of her PhD work in Information Studies at the University of Toronto. She had previously completed her Masters degree in Archives and Records Management at U of T, and BA in Women’s and Gender Studies.

In a competitive search and selection process with numerous applicants, Rebecka emerged as the Board’s choice to bring her energy, expertise and community knowledge to the role of Executive Director, which now includes the Archives Manager component. Her training as an archivist, knowledge of digitization as it is transforming the nature of archives, library and information management and access, and her experience in community relations and outreach, are assets which will enable her to work with all of us at CLGA to deal with current challenges and move in future directions.

The Board extends heartfelt appreciation to Scott for his contributions since 2012 in the role of General Manager and, more recently, Executive Director. Scott provided ample notice of his intention to make a career change, enabling us to arrange for an orderly and effective recruitment process and transition period. We wish him all the best in his future career.

Rebecka will be getting acquainted with her new role with the help of Scott starting June 17 2015, and will be assuming her full role as Executive Director/Archives Manager in July.


Dennis Findlay
President CLGA Board of Directors


M. Mohamed
Friday, May 22, 2015
M. Mohamed
Friday, May 22, 2015

Toronto has a long history of organizing within queer and trans people of colour (QTPOC) communities.  The presence of safe(r) spaces made accessible to QTPOC- from Salaam Canada’s network of queer Muslims, through to the black queer oriented Pride programming spearheaded by Toronto’s Blockorama- by no means came out of a vacuum. Rather, we owe the vital QTPOC spaces we have today, to the groundwork laid by earlier generations of QTPOC community organizers and activists. Below are some highlights of those seminal QTPOC organizing efforts, all of which can be found at the CLGA:


1. Zami

Above: Zami featured on the cover of Xtra!, December 1984

In 1984, Zami- the first Canadian group for Black and West Indian gays and lesbians- was formed in Toronto. Along with Gay Asians of Toronto (see below), Zami organized “Lesbians, Gays, and Race,” a 1985 video and panel discussion held at the 519, on race and sexuality. Within a year of their formation, Zami had already managed to land itself on the front cover Xtra!, and the group was profiled as “combining potluck suppers with peer counselling and discussions on topics ranging from co-parenting to discrimination in local bars” (Xtra! 1984). Flyers, promotional materials and articles on Zami are all available at the CLGA.


2. Rupert Raj

Above: Portrait of Rupert Raj for the CLGA National Portrait Collection     Artist: Maya Suess

Rupert Raj is a trans activist, writer and psychotherapist. In 1978, Raj started the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals. Raj also founded Metamorphosis magazine- from 1982-1988, the magazine developed an international readership, providing information and resources for trans men. These days, Raj works as a counsellor for LGBTQ communities, and is the co-editor of Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader. Rupert Raj’s Trans Collections is available at the CLGA.


3. Khush

Above: Khush’s first cottage retreat for South Asian identified gay men, 1988.

Founded in 1987, Khush: South Asian Gay Men of Toronto organized monthly meetings for queer South Asians in Toronto (their membership later expanded to include women as well). Throughout the late 80’s and 90’s, Khush organized a variety of queer South Asian cultural and community events, including their landmark Desh Pardesh festival, which highlighted South Asian art, culture and politics (the annual festival ran until 2001). Under Khush’s leadership, the group founded vital print publications including Khush Khayal (the first South Asian gay and lesbian newspaper in Toronto, founded in 1989) and a quarterly zine titled Avec Pyar. Khush’s print materials are all available at the CLGA.


4. Gay Asians of Toronto

Above: Front cover of the November 1983 edition of the Gay Asians of Toronto newsletter.

Gay Asians of Toronto (GAT) was formed in 1980 by Gerald Chan, Nitto Marquez, Tony Souza and Richard Fung. Functioning as a discussion group for gay-identified Asians based in Toronto, GAT came into being after finding inspiration in 1979’s Third World Conference and National March in Washington, which brought queer people of colour together. Throughout the late 80’s and 90’s, GAT published Celebrasian- a quarterly newspaper highlighting gay Asian poetry, prose, photography and news.


Photo Credits: The above images are all taken from the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Nick Matte
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory is gearing up for an exciting visit this coming week (May 25-28) with Collaborator Dr. KJ Rawson, Assistant Professor in the English department at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rawson is developing the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA), a sophisticated website that will bring together trans archival materials from various collections around the world ( Many such materials are currently spread out across research collections and are not always very accessible. The DTA will allow many more people to access information that will contribute to greater awareness of and learning about trans history. In support of his work creating the DTA, Rawson was recently awarded a Digital Innovation Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (see Rawson, who earned his PhD from Syracuse University in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric, has written extensively about queer and trans archives and archiving. Along with fellow collaborator Dr. Aaron Devor, of the University of Victoria Transgender Archives, Rawson is the co-editor of an upcoming special issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly that will focus on archives.

Here in Toronto, Rawson will be working with our local Collaborators and institutional partners at the University of Toronto on technical issues relating to such things as database development and digitization, as well as on locating and reviewing trans materials in the CLGA collection. Our team in Toronto has spent the better part of the last six months preparing a “Trans Pathfinder” guide document that will outline what trans materials exist in the CLGA’s collection. We very much look forward to welcoming Dr. Rawson to Toronto and to spending some time together in person working on the many exciting facets of our research and projects. We also hope you’ll say hello if you see us around the CLGA during his visit! To find out more, or to connect directly with Rawson, check out

Nick Matte
Friday, Mar 27, 2015

This month the LGBTQ Collaboratory held our first audio digitization workshop, where potential volunteers were trained on the use of our new audio digitization station. This station allows us to create preservation quality .wav files from cassette tapes as well as noise-reduced, streaming ready versions that will eventually be made available to researchers through the online interface we’re currently developing. Al Stanton-Hagan, Cait McKinney, and Nicholas Matte lead the workshop for an enthusiastic group of 12 volunteers who will work on digitizing many of the great audio tapes at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA). As part of this program we’ve developed a training manual that other organizations might find helpful in desiginging their own low-cost, easy to use audio digitization stations. Thanks to the Lesbian Herstory Archives and Indigitization: Toolkit for the Digitization of First Nations Knowledge, which both provided models for our system, and to Cair McKinney, for putting together such a practical and beautiful resource.

We’ve been using the new station to digitize many rare audio tapes related to early transgender politics from the CLGA’s Rupert Raj collection. These tapes represent a unique collection that documents trans health issues in Canada beginning in the early 1970s. Specifically they are strong on the history of transexualism, the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and support services available to trans people during this period.

We’ve also digitized a number of interviews and dialogs with LGBT activists including Carole Pope, Nina Arsenault, Gary Kinsman, and a number of tapes related to the Body Politic. These tapes join the recently digitized complete collection of oral histories tapes from the Lesbians Making History project, an oral history project spearheaded in the mid-1980s by Amy Gottlieb, Maureen FitzGerald, Didi Khayatt, and others to provide rare oral histories of lesbian lives in Canada.  Stay tuned for news about the public launch event for that project, which will take place on June 7th from 4-6pm at CLGA.

Next up throughout April, we will be integrating our new audio volunteers into a regular schedule with ongoing training and support. It’s an exciting time for audio records at the CLGA, with the support and efforts of LGBTQ Oral History and Digital Archives Collaborators! 

Follow the LGBTQ Oral History and Digital Collaboratory on twitter @lgbtqhistory

Michael Holmes
Thursday, Mar 19, 2015
A playlist of queer songs compiled by volunteer Michael C. Holmes. Click the song title to listen.
A playful tune about gender-bending fashion trends of the time, this song has been recorded by many artists since the 1920s.
Girls were girls and boys were boys when i was a tot 
Now we don't know who is who or even what's what 
Knickers and trousers, baggy and wide
Nobody knows who's walking inside
Those masculine women and feminine men
Ma Rainey, known as the Mother of the Blues, sings about losing a man after finding him in the arms of a sissy.
My man got a sissy, his name is Miss Kate 
He shook that thing like jelly on a plate
Captivating audiences with a smooth voice, open sexuality, and flamboyant fashion sense, Jackie Shane gained fame performing in Toronto clubs in the 1960s, then disappeared from the music scene and retired to Nashville. Watch rare footage of Jackie performing another song here.
Tell her that I'm happy, tell her that I'm gay
Tell her I wouldn't have it any other way
From the first known gay-themed album in country music history.
Well your sexism’s a broken record, record, record
Been screechin’ for ten thousand years 
And the battles begun sir, I tell ya I’m done sir 
With crying these cocksucking tears
Long before Lady Gaga's "Born This Way", there was this gay anthem for biological determinism. A version of the song was recorded two years later by Carl Bean.
I'm walking through life in nature's disguise
You laugh at me and you criticize
Just because I'm happy, I'm carefree, and I'm gay
Yes I'm gay
Tain't a fault tis a fact
I was born this way
The first song with sexually explicit lesbian themes to reach Canadian pop music charts. Based in Toronto, the band was formed by CLGA National Portrait Collection inductee Carole Pope with multi-instrumentalist Kevan Staples.
What's her perfume? Tigress by Fabergé
It makes me cream my jeans
When she comes my way
Known for their comedy and parody songs, the campy musical duo use this track to comment on serious issues of homophobia.
Some liberals say that it's okay for people to be queer
As long as they don't flaunt it, but it seems to me my dear
That we've seen straight folks flaunt their sexuality for years
Sounds suspiciously like homophobia to me
Bambi Lake's account of San Franciso's street hustler scene in the 1970s is given new life by Justin Vivian Bond, with a music video featuring archival footage and large cast of contemporary performers.
Sticks and stones can break my bones
But names can never hurt me
The queens and the hustlers of the red light zones
Never did desert me
Posted Saturday, March 21, 2015